House upvotes transparency rules for foreign social media platforms
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 11/7/23-Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, talks about House Bill 7C, which provides security grants for at-risk schools, Tuesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. The bill passed the House and moves to the Senate. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

‘This bill will address the misinformation and blatant propaganda.’

Social media platforms owned by or headquartered in six federally recognized hostile countries may soon have to be more forthcoming about their operations in the Sunshine State due to legislation House lawmakers just approved.

The bill (HB 1541), sponsored by Brevard County Republican Rep. Randy Fine, is dubbed the “Transparency in Social Media Act.”

It would require platforms like TikTok, WeChat and others under the controlling influence of China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela to give users and regulators a better behind-the-curtain view.

The House voted 109-0 Friday for the bill, which would go into effect July 1.

Sarasota Republican Sen. Joe Gruters, who is carrying an almost identical measure (SB 1148) in the Legislature’s upper chamber, said the bill will create an equal informational playing field.

“This bill will address the misinformation and blatant propaganda from foreign adversaries (that influences) users of all ages — while protecting their privacy,” he said, adding that the bill asks less of those foreign platforms than their countries require of ones from the U.S.

“If you’re an American company (and) do business in some of those countries, they require the entire source code,” he said. “We’re not requesting that.”

HB 1541 and SB 1148 would require all foreign-adversary-owned platforms operating in Florida to publicly disclose the core functional elements of their content curation and algorithm, including what factors influence content-visibility ranking.

The platforms would have to share what measures they take to address misinformation and harmful content. They would also be required to implement user-verification systems that include citizenship and residency checks before the purchase of political advertisements.

Platforms that run afoul of those rules would face $10,000-per-violation penalties.

The Department of Legal Affairs, under Attorney General Ashley Moody, would be responsible for monitoring the companies for compliance and holding them accountable.

The legislation comes amid a wave of state measures meant to crack down on foreign influence on Sunshine State residents in recent years.

One under court appeal prohibits governmental entities from contracting with “countries of concern,” including China, for the purchase of agricultural land. Another law approved last year limits state college and university personnel from accepting gifts from or participating in partnerships with those countries. Florida has also banned TikTok on state-issued mobile devices.

Lawmakers this year also are considering bills to block the use of traffic cameras with Chinese parts, prohibit charitable donations from “America’s enemies” and call on U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to formally condemn the Chinese Communist Party and their “emerging partnership” with Cuba to expand espionage and military capabilities on the island, among other measures.

HB 1541 will next be sent to the Senate, where SB 1148 awaits a floor vote.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.

One comment

  • Kathryn A

    March 2, 2024 at 8:34 pm

    That’s good; now how about the politicians and the state of Florida showing transparency and follow the Sunshine State laws??

Comments are closed.


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